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  • Eliminating
    Eliminating "Us And Them": Making IT and the Business One
    by Steven Romero

Time to End the Claims of “The End of the CIO”

I’m sick of the so-called pundits and self-proclaimed experts who are yet again contending IT’s days are numbered and the role of the CIO will soon go the way of the dodo. I can barely stomach the assertions that IT and the CIO must change – implying that IT and its leaders have not been in a constant state of change since their very beginnings.

The advent of cloud computing and the consumerization of IT are the latest “threats” to IT and the role of the CIO. Who needs the CIO and IT when you can simply buy a smartphone and use Gmail from Google? Yes, that is an outlandish oversimplification, but the spirit of it is on the mark given research shows the majority of business leaders view IT as a source of efficiency or effectiveness as opposed to a source of strategic or competitive advantage. For most organizations, IT is a cost-to-be-controlled and the CIO doesn’t even have a seat at the enterprise leadership table. Combine this perception with the fact that almost every business leadership team has long-neglected their role in governing IT and it is easy to explain the view of IT as overhead.

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The Business Must Be a Partner in IT Transformation

In my last blog post I described the need for the business to take a front-and-center role in the governance of IT to assure the continual and successful “evolution” of IT. I noted how business neglect of IT governance has greatly contributed to IT’s inability to naturally and appropriately evolve in response to ever-changing business needs. Enterprises failing to govern information technology decisions foster the ‘Us and Them’ relationship that causes a divide between their IT organizations and their business counterparts. This divide must be periodically addressed each time the gulf becomes too great for IT to successfully serve the business. In lieu of business-driven IT evolution, IT must be repeatedly “transformed.”

IT organizations finds themselves engulfed in the latest calls for “IT transformation” – driven largely by cloud computing, mobile data, and the consumerization of IT. IT organizations and their CIOs are being warned to change or their days as a fixture in the enterprise will soon come to an end. These change efforts are underway everywhere I look and there are some really smart people with innovative approaches and solutions providing the means for CIOs and their IT organizations to “transform.” But as I stated in my last blog post, these transformations will not provide lasting results if the business isn’t driving them while simultaneously stepping up to their crucial role in governing IT. If any change to IT is to be meaningful and enduring, the business must look at their role in the relationship and ultimately transform as well, instead of insisting it is only IT that needs to change.

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IT Transformation Delusions

I am certain you have heard the countless calls from analysts and experts for the CIO to “transform IT.” There are calls for IT to transform from a source of efficiency and effectives to a driver of business innovation. The proliferation of software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers prompted calls for IT to transform from a service-provider to a service-broker. The latest calls are a hybrid of the earlier calls – beckoning IT to undertake a “cloud transformation” (though I admit, I am still trying to figure out what that is). I agree with the rational for each of these calls but I fear the characterization will cause many IT organizations and their enterprises to fall short of the desired goals of these “transformations.” I wish the calls were for IT’s evolution.

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Heeding the “Cloud Warning”

I read an interesting post yesterday by Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. In his article, “The Cloud Warning”, McAfee contemplates cloud computing’s potential to contribute to large competitive shifts not only among IT vendors, but also among consumers of technology. He draws an analogy between the “incumbent firms” holding back and being very cautious about the Cloud and the incumbent companies who held back on converting from steam to electricity a hundred years ago.

McAfee recalls the long, slow, uneven process of converting American factories from steam to electric power and notes how the transformation to electricity was led by startup companies and new buildings. The failure to transform was devastating to the incumbent manufacturing base. By 1935, over 40% of the big industrial trusts formed by 1905 had failed. Of the incumbents that survived, most became much smaller, with market shares declining by a third.

McAfee wonders if cloud computing will be similarly important.

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MIA: Process Owners

Do you know who the “Process Owners” are in your organization? Do you even have Process Owners? If you do, do you know what they do? Does your organization have a formal definition of the Process Owner role and its associated responsibilities? If you can answer yes to each of these questions, please contact me because you will be first person I have met able to do so.

Processes are an inherent aspect of every enterprise today. Even those organizations who insist, “We’re not a process shop” have processes. They may be ad hoc, informal, and undocumented, but they are still processes. And I am not just talking about work. You can’t brush your teeth without following a process. But despite the omnipresent nature of process, most organizations are bereft of formal process management discipline.

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